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Welsh restaurant operators "none the wiser but ever hopeful" as reopening update expected tomorrow

01 July 2020 by

Restaurants and pubs in Wales are still waiting for an official reopening date and government guidelines to be released despite hotels being allowed to reopen from 13 July.

While outdoor attractions in Wales are allowed to reopen from 6 July, followed by the accommodation sector on 13 July, restaurants, cafes and bars are still on standby for a reopening date and guidelines, after the Welsh government promised "a fast track review" with a view to announcing an update on Thursday.

David Chapman, UKHospitality's executive director for Wales confirmed that restaurants, bars and coffee shops in Wales are drawing up plans to reopen "with no confirmation of the actual date".

He said: "While the phased reopening approach from the Welsh government does provide restaurants with a road map of sorts, members are saying that to protect jobs they must have clarity on a reopening date. We are aware that the Welsh government is looking at this as a priority, but we would welcome confirmation as soon as possible."

Confusion among operators and customers is rife. Nick Newman, general manager of the Philharmonic pub in Cardiff said the industry was "notorious for rumours", adding that "you hear one thing from one and another from someone else".

He told The Caterer: "We try to go on what the first minister is saying and at the moment he's not saying very much."

Newman, who also chairs the Cardiff Licensees Forum, which represents around 90 pubs clubs and bars in the area, said they were "none the wiser from last week but ever hopeful" that Thursday's announcement would offer much-needed clarification.

"It is up in the air – if the first minister makes a statement which applies for three weeks beyond that, we would be looking at the first week of August to reopen," he said.

"What we'd really like to hear is a certain date and a certain basis of how we're going to open. A lot of us have become mini experts in terms of rolling-out everything that needs to be done but we'd like as much time as possible.

"We're having to feel our way and we're looking to every government announcement. We've invested heavily to get the business back open and it would be great to have a clearer idea. If you put Scotland in the mix as well, that's three countries on the same bit of land, all with different schedules."

Tommy Heaney, chef-patron of Heaneys in Pontcanna, Cardiff, told The Caterer the lack of clarity was "frustrating" but that safety was "the most important thing".

Anticipating an official reopening date of early August, he said: "It would be nice to have a rough idea but you don't want false hopes."

Heaney said he was using the time to carry out a kitchen refurbishment, adding: "It's going to come back. I didn't want to waste my time measuring up my restaurant for two-metre distancing. I'm waiting for guidance but getting more frustrated.

"We're looking at it with an open mind but a date would be great as you've something to work towards. Everything's so vague. Even a little indication as to what happens with outdoor seating areas and whether we can expand that.

"There are things that we have no clue about – it's really a guessing game. The phone hasn't stopped ringing and we've had emails from customers asking to book from 4 July. When they do give us a date, it needs to be two-to-three weeks' notice as we'll have to bring in social distancing and PPE and do a lot of training."

Similarly frustrated is Si Toft, who runs the Dining Room, a 24-cover British bistro in the seaside village of Abersoch. He tweeted: "Next week when the border reopens and they all come down thinking we're open it's gonna be horrible."

He told The Caterer that it was "all guess work" with Wales appearing to be two weeks behind England.

"All I want to know – and I appreciate they can't give us a date – is what the guidelines are going to be so I know what I'm aiming for."

He said there had been so much confusion around reopening dates that he had stopped answering the phone as he was tired of having to explain the situation to potential customers.

"People will be banging on the door from next week. The amount of phone calls I'm getting because people don't realise that effectively restaurants and pubs are still closed – every single person you speak to thinks that what they've seen for England is the law here."

Meanwhile a spokesperson from the Welsh government said they were working with the industry and local communities to ensure a safe return for the sector and that people's health and well-being was at the forefront of their approach to easing the restrictions.

"Those discussions are taking place with a wide range of interests across the hospitality sector in Wales and have been constructive. We will announce our intentions when further headroom for change allows."

Further details are expected after the Welsh Assembly's update tomorrow.

Image: Shutterstock

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